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Apr 25, 2005

Education Minister asks teachers to consider actions

Story PictureTo strike or not to strike. That is the decision facing members of the Belize National Teacher’s Union tonight. Viewers may recall that on Friday we thought that the choice had already been made as B.N.T.U. President Anthony Fuentes told the media that an eight-member quorum of branch representatives had unanimously voted for a walkout. But no sooner had the word gone out than contradictory voices intervened. Was there dissention in the ranks? Was a postponement ordered to allow negotiations between B.T.L. workers and government to proceed without prejudice? Were declarations by the Ministry of Education that a strike was illegal being seriously considered? Whatever transpired, by weekend teachers were asked by their union to go to class on Monday…and they did. Schools opened this morning with near perfect attendance nationwide. Even in the old capital, home of the most radical union members, the situation at schools was normal. A meeting of the Belize City branch of the B.N.T.U. began this afternoon at four-thirty and News 5′s Patrick Jones is standing by to hear what, if anything, has been decided. Earlier in the day Jones spoke to Education Minister Francis Fonseca, who called on teachers to consider the consequences of their actions.

Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education
?Certainly this time around, I have to make it very clear that we do not believe that there is any legitimate cause which would lead to the closure of schools. And certainly the whole issue of the B.T.L. workers owning shares in B.T.L., that is a legitimate issue and certainly we understand where teachers or the B.N.T.U. may want to express solidarity with workers at B.T.L. But there are way of showing that solidarity and expressing support for that cause apart from closing down schools, and we believe those have to be exhausted and fully explored before the resort to a drastic step of closing down schools, particularly at this critical time. I?ve been making the point over the last few days, we are at the final lap of the school year, the last eight weeks of school and this is a critical time for our kids in school. Many of them are preparing for final examinations in school, they are also preparing for external examinations, this week many of our kids are sitting C.X.C.?s.?

?I want to be very clear to parents and students, as far as the Ministry of Education is concerned, as far as the general managers of schools are concerned schools will be opened and operational and in session today, tomorrow, the days ahead and the weeks ahead. And I?m asking, and calling on teachers to heed what I view as a call from parents and students to ensure that schools are open. I think we have had enough interruptions. And certainly we don?t want any more over the next few days.?

But what does the minister have to say to those who believe the situation requires an immediate change of government?

Patrick Jones
?Minister what would you say to those who would say that while the concerns for our children are legitimate that if what is wrong with the country and the way it is governed right now is not fixed now, those same children will suffer in the future??

Francis Fonseca
?Well I agree there are serious challenges our country faces, but how do we go about fixing those challenges? How do we go about addressing those problems? I certainly don?t believe that any right thinking Belizean, any reasonable rational Belizean believes that they way to fix those problem is to illegally and unconstitutionally remove a government from office. There are ways of achieving their objectives, you know certainly if Mr. Barrow feels that the majority of people don?t have confidence in the Government of Belize then he should take that issue to the National Assembly and seek a vote of no confidence in the government. And beyond that, we have an election, an electoral process. We had elections in 2003, elections are slated for 2008, if there are policy difference, if people believe that the government is heading in the wrong direction and that we make mistaken decisions that have not been in the best interest of the country, then people will have an opportunity to say this is a time for us to head in a new direction. But it has not been the history of Belize and it should not be the future of Belize that we head in the direction of removing governments from power because we have difference of views with respect to decisions that have been made by that government.?

Although classes were held normally today, bomb threats at two city primary schools forced children to leave the classroom while police investigated. Both calls proved to be hoaxes.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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